16th August 2011

Cycling Land’s End to John O’Groats in 7 days – done!

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As you know, at Geovation we like to run challenges! We run innovation challenges to address specific problems within communities, which may be satisfied, in part, through the use of geography. These challenges are open to entrepreneurs, developers, community groups, government organisations and individuals. Find out more about the challenges we run here and how you can get involved, Geovation Innovation Challenges.

 

Andy wanted to take on his own challenge and carried out a cycling challenge from Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) below.

Eight of us set off from Lands End at 8.30 on Monday 11 July looking to complete the LEJOG challenge in seven days, averaging near 130 miles per day. We started from Lands End as there are supposed to be prevailing winds,….however this was not the case! We encountered five days of head/cross winds and only one day where a tail wind helped us.  I had planned the route using Bike hike, an application which has been developed using the OS OpenSpace API. We planned to stop and meet our support crew for refreshments every 30 miles or so, and they did not let us down on any occasion. We had a great array of, sarnies, pasties, pasta, rice and other goodies.

Day 1 Still and sunny conditions, ideal! We aimed to cross Dartmoor as part of our journey and this was a great experience, overcast conditions meant that the climb onto the moor was easier than anticipated. What did dampen our spirits was the 16% climb after 125 miles of cycling nearing Exeter.

Day 2 started a bit wet, but soon cleared up. Unfortunately a stiff northerly wind battered us all day into Hereford. The Severn crossing was the highlight as we felt we were really making progress as we made our way into Wales and up the Wye Valley.

Day 3, and the sun came out….but the northerly wind still blew, we agreed to keep off the infamous A49 until we reached Whitchurch. All the guys were very focused and got their heads down, not much banter was heard. Due to the wind, we arrived into Wigan after the rush hour traffic had subsided, which was a bonus.

Day 4. We had to navigate through the northwest during morning rush hour. This was to be our shortest day at 118 miles, but an unannounced closed road north of Garstang changed that. The 15 km climb out of Kendal on the A6 was a real treat, but the descent was harder work than it should have been due the wind. A missed turn out of Carlisle to Gretna meant a few unnecessary miles were added to our day.

Day 5 At last, a tail wind! We rode parallel to the M74 until Moffat, a gradual climb the whole way, but were averaging 18mph. The 11 km Devil’s Beef Tub climb awaited us at Moffat but spun up there nice and easy. We encountered our first set of mosquitoes and soon discovered that they are unable to keep up with you above 17 mph. We tore into Edinburgh touching 25 mph and got blown across the Forth Road Bridge. Looking back, this was the highlight of the trip for us all. Mentally some of thought we were nearly there….but Scotland is a big place!

Day 6 Wet, wet, wet….and windy! We used the General Wade’s Military Road along the A9 and for 11 miles the cycle path was in a desperate state, but we only suffered one puncture. It rained so hard that we had to take shelter under a petrol station canopy for half an hour. A few miles out of Aviemore we were metres behind a head on collision involving two cars on wet roads. Evasive action was required on our parts and we all bailed out down a grass bank to avoid flying debris. We were delayed for about an hour whilst all the emergency services arrived.

Day 7 Again the rain came down in stair rods…horizontal stair rods. We crossed the Cromarty Firth and saw our first sign for John o’Groats….only 85 miles to go! Lance Armstrong was in the area staying at Skibo Castle. We tweeted him to see if he would like to join us but got no luck. The rain cleared but remained cold as we entered Wick, only 17 miles to go. We organised a peloton, where the front man stayed in front for twenty pedal revolutions before moving the back. The adrenalin of nearly finishing meant we were able to barrel along at 20 mph. We arrived at John O’Groats just on 7 pm all relieved the challenge was finished. We got the photos taken, bikes in the van and back to Wick for a curry and beer(s).  We had cycled 899.25 miles in seven days, had three near misses with cars, 5 punctures, a broken spoke, creaked wheel bearing, a shredded rear tyre, 5 days of head wind and two days of rain. In hindsight, we should have started in John O’Groats and gone south, after all, it is downhill…..and yes, one of the guys cycled round the car park until he had reached 900 miles!

 

Find out more about the Innovation Challenges Geovation run, to help find sustainable solutions here.

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